September 29, 2021 9 min read 5 Comments
Dogs are natural carnivores; therefore, we would think that means all meats are good for dogs, right? This is actually a dangerous misconception that could lead to your dog having allergic reactions, digestive issues, and possibly fatal consequences. Now we will dive into a list of meats your dog should avoid at all costs and some to be very cautious with.
Bacon, the notoriously delicious salty, fatty, cured meat that is loved by millions should be avoided by dogs. Yes – that is right – no sharing a piece of your breakfast bacon with your morning companion. Bacon is one meat that your dog shouldn’t consume for a number of reasons. One of the main concerns of bacon is the high level of salt, which is known for causing adverse health effects in dogs that range from disagreeing digestive systems to untimely deaths. Salt affects dogs in a few different ways. Dogs may become exceedingly thirsty, which can lead to bloat from excessive water drinking that can be deadly in rare, extreme cases. The second way that salt affects dogs is that it may cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, high temperatures, and even seizures. It also should be mentioned that depending on the type of salt, it can lead to sodium ion poisoning, with more than 1.5 grams per pound of body weight being lethal for the dog. At the end of the day, you should take this advice with a grain of salt (pun intended). There isn’t a need to ring the alarm if your dog snatches a piece or two, but large and frequent consumption of salty foods could gravely harm your best friend.
Another good reason to not give your dog bacon is the notable high fat content. Fats are dangerous to dogs in two ways:
For the reasons listed above, it’s best to keep the bacon to yourself, but that’s nothing to complain about.
As you can imagine, ham should be avoided for reasons similar to bacon. Ham, especially store-bought hams, contain large amounts of sodium. As previously mentioned, high levels of sodium can be very dangerous for dogs and can cause salt poisoning and bloating; both of which can be deadly to your dog. Store-bought hams also contain preservatives that are loaded with nitrates and nitrites that are also sodium-based, which further increases the chance for sodium-ion poisoning. Additionally, like bacon, hams are high in fat content. While this is the reason why humans find them delicious, this is also what makes them dangerous to dogs. Too much fat in a dog’s diet can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially deadly condition. The last risk of ham’s high fat content for your dog’s diet that is important to mention is weight gain. Obesity in dogs is a major leading cause of a whole host of health issues in dogs.
Processed meats, including deli meats and hot dogs, offer numerous reasons why you should avoid feeding them to your dog from the additives, salt content, choking hazard, and the fat contents. Hot dogs are packed full with additives ranging from seasonings, sweeteners, and preservatives that are not healthy for dogs.
Seasonings – Processed meats when being made are often seasoned with garlic and onion powders, which are both toxic to dogs. Check out our blog 10 Vegetables for Your Dog for more information on the dangers of seasoning.
Additives – Processed meats contain additives, like monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG), which is linked to cancers. Most preservatives that include sodium-based nitrates and nitrites can increase the chance of sodium-ion poisoning.
Sugars or artificial sweeteners – Processed meats often contain artificial sweeteners that range from Xylitol, Erthritol, Stevia, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose. These artificial sweeteners can all cause minor gastrointestinal problems to serious health issues, including death from Xylitol that is highly toxic to dogs.
Choking – Hot dogs, especially for larger dogs, are a choking hazard. Large dogs may even try to swallow the hotdog without chewing them first.
Salt Contents – The average hot dog contains more than 500 mg of sodium. Deli meats also contain very high levels of salt per volume. High salt intake can lead to bloating and vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, high temperatures, and even seizures, as well as possible sodium-ion poisoning.
Fat Contents – Hot dogs often contain the scraps, trimmings, and fatty parts left over from meat processing. Some deli meats, especially hams, are also high in fat contents. These have high fat contents are both unhealthy for your dog and also can lead to possible serious health conditions, such as pancreatitis.
Listeria Risk – Deli meats pose the risk of listeria, a bacterium most commonly found in deli meats from cattle and poultry. Listeria is often present in small amounts, but could also be present in higher amounts. This is normally not an issue for humans as long as it’s in small amounts and their immune systems are healthy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with dogs. The listeria found in deli meats can cause a foodborne illness known as listeriosis in your dog. Much like other foodborne illnesses, the side effects can include, but are not limited to: diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Listeria can also build up in the dog’s mouth and then be passed to humans through their saliva.
Chicken is safe for dogs and is often the primary protein ingredient in most dog foods, although there are some cautions you need to take when feeding chicken to your dogs, but we will cover those in a later section of this article. The largest danger of chicken consumption for dogs is when it has bones in it, or even the possibility of having bones. Because chicken bones are so brittle, especially those that are cooked, they splinter very easily. When swallowed, these small, sharp fragmented pieces of chicken bone can effortlessly puncture the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. Even larger chicken bones can also cause choking by becoming lodged in your dog’s throat. An equally scary consequence from dogs eating chicken bones is the development of blockages in the intestines. If your dog experiences any coughing or sputtering sounds, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or diarrhea, contact your veterinarian immediately. Also, please remember that just because your dog ate chicken bones before and seemingly was fine after does not mean that will be the case the second time around. When feeding your dog chicken, always make sure to stick with boneless, skinless breast meat. For more information on feeding your dog chicken, please continue reading.
The following three meats are generally considered safe for dogs in most cases, but some caution should be taken before feeding them to your dog. These three meats include pork, fish, and boneless chicken. As with all meats we will mention in this section (or any new food, really), be sure to introduce it in small quantities when first offering to your dog. This will alert you of any potential food allergies, reactions, or gastrointestinal food sensitivities that may upset their stomachs. I will also reiterate that seasonings should be avoided when preparing meats and other foods for your dogs to consume because several most commonly used seasonings can be toxic to dogs.
Chicken, as mentioned in an earlier section is safe for your dog and is often a primary ingredient in manufactured dog foods. Chicken is also a good source of protein and has omega-6 fatty acids. Despite chicken being commonly used as the primary ingredient in dog foods, chicken is actually the 5th most common dog food allergy. This allergy is often misdiagnosed and overlooked, but is often the underlying cause of skin and gastrointestinal conditions. Chicken allergies often appear as hotspots. The more you know!
Signs of a chicken allergy in dogs includes:
If your dog experiences a chicken allergy, the best treatment is to eliminate all chicken from the dog’s diet and to feed only chicken-free dog food. Always reference the labels for an ingredients list.
It is also very important when feeding chicken to your dog to only use clean, lean cuts of meat. We recommend sticking to only boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You should avoid cuts of chicken that are high in fats or include the skins. Chicken fats can cause digestive issues and can cause the dreaded pancreatitis.
You should also never give your dog raw store-bought chicken due to the risk of bacterial infections from salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria. Chicken should always be fully cooked before feeding it to your dog. When cooking the chicken, it is important to remember to never season the chicken with onions, garlics, or other seasonings. Safe cooking methods include roasting, poaching, baking, and grilling.
Pork meats are relatively safe for your dogs to eat, but there are a few precautions that we would like to cover. Never feed your dog raw pork as it is home to a common parasite called the Trichinella spiralis larvae, which can cause the parasitic infection called trichinosis. Trichinosis more commonly affects humans compared to dogs, but a dog with a weaker immune system is more susceptible to getting infected. Dogs with weaker immune systems include puppies, older dogs, and dogs currently battling an illness.
As briefly mentioned previously, it is also very important to never feed your dog pork that has been seasoned. Common seasonings include salt, onion powder, garlic, nutmeg, and sugars. These are all dangerous and toxic to dogs. Also be sure to avoid feeding your dog pork that has come in contact with any sauces, as these also contain salts and other seasonings.
Fish contains healthy proteins and omega-3 fatty acids that can be beneficial in your dog’s diet. Additionally, fish makes a great food source for dogs that might have a chicken meat allergy, which we will discussed in the previous section. There are some things to consider though before selecting fish to be a part of your dog’s diet.
Never feed your dog raw fish, as raw fish possess a high risk of carrying bacteria, such as salmonella and listeria. This bacterium does not only infect your dog and make them sick, but it can also be passed to humans through the dog’s saliva. It is always important to properly prep and cook your fish before feeding it to your dog.
Like chicken bones, fish bones can be a health hazard. Fish bones are small, brittle, and can be very dangerous if swallowed. These bones can lodge themselves in and also perforate your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines.
You should avoid feeding your dog tuna and other long-lived fish because these types are known to contain heavy metals, most notably mercury. Too much mercury can damage the cardiovascular system, nervous system, kidneys, and the digestive tract.
The best type of fish to give to your dog is short-lived species like salmon, ocean whitefish, lake whitefish, herring, walleye, flounder, and Arctic char. In addition to avoiding seasonings, you should also consider limiting the use of additional oils. A diet for dogs that is heavy in fatty oils can cause health problems down the line.
With dogs being carnivores, they are going to instinctively be interested in all meats, especially when watching their owners consume different meats, they will be there to offer their services to help finish whatever the owner is eating. This is why it is important for the dog owner to be educated on the different meats that a dog can eat and those that they should avoid. In the event that a dog does consume any of the meats on the to-avoid list, don’t worry. As long as it’s not in large amounts, they should be fine. If you have any health concerns, please discuss with your veterinarian. We hope you found the information in this article educational and helps you keep your dogs in their best health.
Thank you for reading. As always, we look forward to reading your comments and feedback. If you have any questions, requests, or suggestions for future articles, please comment below!
By: Michael Cassatt, LCS Director of Marketing
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December 19, 2021
Thank you for the article. With a 19 yo setter, and the calorie intake need while avoiding pancreatitis, I have been guilty of the occasional hot dog. Neither Maggie or my 6 yo boy will see another. Hard concept to realize that a treat can be a death sentence. I do have a great farmer to for grass fed beef and lamb for their special treats.
December 19, 2021
Great article!! I never give my dogs anything with chicken or pork in it. I will be saving this article for future reference. I have to look long and hard to find good dogs foods that don’t have those ingredients but it’s worth it to me. Ziwi is great, but very expensive. Wildology is a brand I came across recently and I’m very impressed with the ingredients list and the price is about $30 for 30#’s. -Very reasonable. “Prey” by Call of the Wild is their premium dog food that is also free of chicken and pork. Moderately priced also.
September 29, 2021
@Antoinette, Lamb is a great choice of meat for dogs. Lamb is a good source of amino acids and dietary fats. The red meat also offers vitamins and minerals that are important for skin and coat health. When preparing any meat, please remember not to season the meat and not to feed overly fatty cuts. May your Portia enjoy!
September 29, 2021
Very helpful information. Can’t resist giving Portia a slice of cooked bacon from time to time. How about lamb? Purina has a lamb formula that does not seem to bother her. Mainly I use their salmon formula. What is your opinion? Thank you very much, Ann
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October 15, 2022
A note of warning on lamb. Lamb based kibbles should have Taurine added. There is scientific evidence that low Taurine diets can cause DCM and lamb is one of the biggest culprits in that. It is something to do with the bio-availability. Not something I understand but I trust the experts on this one. My heart dog’s brother had DCM caused by low Taurine diet